Monday, May 24, 2010

Softly curved mantels

Last week, I posted on several fireplace mantels that were mentioned at a design meeting; one was the perfect scale (but not the right style), one was the perfect style (but too small for the room), and one was an antique (beautiful, but not the right style). The ideal situation would be to find a mantel that is all three: the perfect scale, the perfect style, and an antique.

Building and designing a house always seems to be a balancing act among time, money, and speed. If we had an unlimited budget and unlimited time, I am sure that the perfect mantel could be found. However, with groundbreaking imminent (hopefully), and a very defined budget, Suzanne (my designer) will hopefully find a fireplace that is the right scale and the right size and the right price – and available right now (or capable of being ordered).


My architect would like to select the fireplace sooner rather than later, as he likes for the opening to be scaled to the specific mantel – so the entire opening of the firebox is seen. I wasn’t sure what he meant until I saw this picture (above). Do you see how the opening of the firebox is the entire height and width of the mantel? This is one of my favorite fireplace pictures for a variety of reasons; I love the contrast of the ornate and traditional fireplace and decor with the bold and dramatic contemporary art hanging above the fireplace. I also love the soft curve of this style fireplace.


I also admire this mantel, with its gentle curves and less fussy design. This is an example of a firebox that is not sized to the mantel – which is not a bad thing, just not the look that we are going to do.


There is something about that curve in a Louis XV style mantel that really captures my heart. This mantel is much more ornate than what we are looking at, but the negative space in the firebox is so beautiful because of the curve, isn’t it? When the opening of the firebox is scaled to the mantel, the negative space of the mantle becomes just as important as the mantle itself. I can already sense a love for the fussy when it comes to mantles and chandeliers, so I am relying on Suzanne to select a mantel that is the perfect balance between classic and clean lined.


One of my all time favorite Veranda covers, featuring a beautiful mantel with an oval motif – a great way to have a bit of decoration without a lot of ornamentation. I can’t help but wish that the inside of the mantel wasn’t squared off like that, for full appreciation of the curves; of course, who is really noticing the mantel when there is a stunning Cy Twombly painting in the room?


Another one of my favorite Veranda features, a home designed by Betty Burgess, has a nice gentle curved limestone fireplace, but the lines are clean and avoid any kind of fussiness.


The living room in the same house indulges in a bit more of a fussy mantel, but I like the contrast of the clean lines in the room and the more ornate quality of the mantel and the French barometer. Suzanne says that we can go a bit more ornate in the living room given that the fireplace in the family room is going to be extremely simple; there isn’t even going to be a mantel to enable better placement of a TV.


I rarely save pictures for the fireplace, but this picture from an old real estate listing really struck me with its beautiful and softly curved limestone fireplace. It has the classic shape of a French mantel, without the overly decorated aspect sometimes seen in a French mantel.


This fireplace, although not as wide, has a similar look and feel; seen on our fireplace expedition last week. I really like this one, although it might be a bit on the small side.


This size is probably a bit bigger than what we are looking for, but I admire its wide dramatic opening. Image via Belgian Pearls.


The look of a classic curved fireplace in a simple and pared down room, with a touch of contemporary art, is a great mix. Image via Belgian Pearls.


I love this one – with a rosette instead of a shell. Shells seem to be quite common in this Louis XV style fireplaces, but I am not really a fan. Notice the beautiful pattern of the stone tiles inside the firebox – it’s a herringbone pattern done on the horizontal axis. Also note that the mantel is placed around the wall – this must be why most of the antiques I have seen have a big rectangular opening on top. Image via Cote de Texas.


This picture is so incredibly beautiful; it combines an unusually placed fireplace with those soft curves I like, a tall beautiful French door that allows the natural light to flow into the space, and one of my favorite colors, periwinkle blue. Notice how the colors of the curtains influence the color of the stone on the floor. Image via Trouvais, from La Vie en Rose by Suzanne Lowry.


I included this picture in my ‘virtual house’ because there are so many qualities about the room that I love; the tall window with light streaming in, the light palette of the room, and the soft curve of the mantel (with a mirror above, of course).


Another image from Trouvais (if you have never visited her blog, you are in for a treat – it is incredibly beautiful and one of the places I go first for visual inspiration). This is from a house in Belgium, and every room is incredibly beautiful. To see the post, click here. I love the floors and the mantel in this space – I image that this is the scale that my architect wants to find, with a wide opening.


This room was from the a Christmas showhouse a few years ago, with interiors by Suzanne Kasler. I am not sure whether the fireplace was already there, or whether Suzanne and her team selected it for the room (I suspect the former), but I loved it in the showhouse.


Here is a close up; I liked it so much that I included this image in my ‘Virtual Home 2010’. The mantel is by Francois & Company, and has the perfect combination of the curves and straight lines. Suzanne and I looked at this in the Francois showroom; if we were to go in this direction, we would order it without the ‘tabs’ in the sides, and we would make the base a bit more squared.


Last week, we went over to the design center to look at Dennis & Leen fireplaces. I love this one – this is the only picture I have seen of it in a magazine. Image via Veranda.


Here is a closer view of the mantel, although it is almost entirely obscured by the plant on the table. The tear sheet for this mantel is in my file at Suzanne’s office, but hopefully this picture conveys the feel of the piece; it is both curved and angular, both feminine and masculine. I think it is really beautiful, and is a great scale for the space. Image via Veranda.

Antique fireplaces are still in the running, but my budget is a bit more geared towards reproductions than antique mantels. However, the family room and outdoor fireplaces are going to be very, very simple, so we might be able to swing something. Suzanne and Stan would ideally like to see an antique mantel in the space, but we are going to keep on looking and see what we can turn up.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

One of my favorite elements

When asked where I grew up, I always say Connecticut, even though I was almost 12 years old when I moved there. The real story is too long: I was born in Boston, then lived in Tuscon, Arizona, then Washington DC, then Fayetteville, Arkansas from age 8-11 (Connecticut was after Arkansas).

Given that many of my formative years were spent in Arkansas, I was thrilled to be asked to write a guest post for At Home in Arkansas, a sister magazine to Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. At Home in Arkansas is a beautiful magazine and has introduced me to some of my new favorite design talents (including Bear Hill Interiors, the Little Rock, Arkansas based firm whose interiors are incredibly beautiful and represent that clean traditional with a twist look that I love).

Please come over and visit my At Home in Arkansas guest post. The theme is 'Welcome Spring', and I write about one of my favorite elements that is so representative of spring. The picture above is a sneak preview (image via At Home in Arkansas, interiors by Bear-Hill Interiors). I have turned off my comments on this post so you can leave a few words of support on the At Home in Arkansas blog!

Thank you!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stone floors in entries

From the moment my architect first started sketching the new house, we agreed that the entry would have a stone floor. I have never really given much thought to the floor material of entries, but it seemed like the right fit for the house. Recently, I decided to do some research and find good pictures of entries with stone, and I realized that most of the pictures in my files seem to have wood floors in the entries. I am not sure why this is the case; perhaps it is because a stone entry works best when the foyer is defined as its own room (or when the floor of most of the house is in stone), and so many entries in houses these days seem to be open to the other spaces in the house.
I asked my architect about stone floors in entries, and he noted that in previous times, it was probably very practical to have stone in the entry as it offered more durability when a visitor was coming in from the rain or snow. Now, it is more of a personal preference, although he said that there are some styles of houses where a stone entry would be out of place.
This is one of my favorite pictures of a stone entry, from the house of Windsor Smith (featured in House Beautiful). Windsor calls this her ‘David Adler’ foyer, and it is crafted with statuary marble and Bateig Blue limestone.
I love the soft and aged look of the blue limestone; it is a new take on the classic black and white marble entry.

For a classic black and white marble entry, it doesn’t get much better than the Swan House, a Philip Shutze masterpiece designed in 1928; this house is a museum now (and one of the great architectural gems of Atlanta). I had the opportunity to tour three privately owned Shutze designed houses this spring, and two of the three had marble entries. (Source)

A more recent interpretation of the classic marble entry, with interiors by Suzanne Kasler.

This beautiful entry, with a large scale original painting by Todd Murphy, provides a great contrast between the classic and the contemporary.

I am not sure where I got this image, but I saw it with new eyes while working on this post – the scale of the marble tiles is quite large and dramatic. Interiors by Suellen Gregory.

Another striking interpretation of the classic black and white stone entry.

I also appreciate a stone entry that has a bit of flair to it.

This beautiful compass style floor is in a classic Atlanta estate (which is on the market) that was renovated by Neel Reid in the 1920s. Photo credit (this picture and the one previous): Blayne Beacham.

Although this space is actually in the back section of Mrs. Howard, a store in Atlanta, it is designed to feel like an entrance. The Howards always have the most beautiful floors in their spaces, and this is no exception.

In the entry of Suzanne Kasler’s previous home, this charming vignette looks wonderful on the foundation of a polished marble floor.

A stone floor in the entry doesn’t always have to make a formal statement. Take this house, with interiors by Bunny Williams (via Style Chronicle). The ancient look of the stone really relaxes the formality of the space.

Much of designer Jill Sharp’s home (as seen in House Beautiful in January) has natural oak floors, but the entry features reclaimed French limestone, which sets the tone for the rustic elegance of the house. Photo credit: Simon Upton.

I imagine this space as more of a side entry, but it could be the main entry for a relaxed and casual home. The stone in this space is more casual looking; somehow, the running bond pattern seems to reinforce the less formal feel. Architecture by Mark Finlay, photo credit Erik Kvalsvik.
Although a herringbone pattern can be quite formal, there is something about the pattern and materials in this entry that set a slightly less formal feel to this house.

Finally, I saved my favorite for last. This picture is from a real estate listing from several years ago, and I think it is a beautiful and dramatic entry. The stone part is set in an oval shape which emphasizes and reinforces the oval shape of the space.

We are still working on the specific materials and design for the entry of my new house; more than likely it will be limestone, and perhaps a tone on tone pattern with two different kinds of stone. The entry is a defined space, and the stone will help establish it as a special part of the house.
Do you see many stone entries where you live? Now that they are on my radar, I always notice them when looking through magazines and real estate listings.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

What Inspires You?


The summer before last, I was able to check off an item on my 'bucket list': a trip to Paris. Paris is, without a doubt, the most beautiful and inspirational city I have ever visited. It is truly a feast for the eyes, with stunning architecture, gardens, and art everywhere you look.

The 17th Century Fountain of the Medicis in the Luxembourg Gardens. Paris has over 400 gardens and parks. Image via the New York Times.

For this reason, I find it absolutely perfect that Design Sherpa, an internet marketing service for the design and remodeling industry (and part of the parent company that owns my favorite magazine, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles), is sponsoring the 'What Inspires You' contest - with an all expenses paid 10 day trip to Paris as the grand prize. The rules for entry are easy: upload an image that inspires you, along with 100 words or less that describes what inspires you. The prize is the ultimate in giveaways; not only does the winner get a trip to Paris, but the trip also includes entrance to Maison & Objet (one of the greatest design shows in the world), and $10,000 cash. Plus, a platform for chronicling the experiences from the trip to a world-wide audience of design enthusiasts.

Accomodations for the winner are at the chic Hotel Recamier. This image reflects so many of the things I love about Paris - the gorgeous stone buildings, lanterns and delicate ironwork railings.

The lobby of the hotel, which is so chic and stylish. Hotel Recamier is located in the heart of Saint Germain des Prés, one of my favorite areas of Paris.

It makes me want to book a ticket right now...but at the very least, I can submit an entry to the 'What Inspires You' contest and dream a little dream about visiting this beautiful city once again. For more information, or to enter the contest, please visit the registration page: http://whatinspiresyou.teamdigital.com/ The round one entry deadline is June 21, 2010. Bonne chance!

No goods or services were exchanged for this post. No purchase necessary to enter.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mantels: which do you like best?

My design team and I had a great three hour meeting today to discuss interior details. Much to my delight, one of the topics that we addressed was the fireplace mantel in the living room. One thing that we all agreed upon is that this fireplace should have a stone mantel. But the specific style is still being determined.

Option one: the perfect scale for the living room. Image via Francois & Company.

Option 2: the perfect style for the living room - we are hoping that this can be custom made in a larger size. (Image via Francois & Company)

Or, option 3, a unique antique fireplace. This beautiful antique limestone fireplace (image via Veranda via Cote de Texas) is one of my all time favorites. Interiors by Eleanor Cummings.

So, what do you think? Do you have a favorite, or do you have another recommendation?

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

My future outdoor room

Many of the design blogs have been buzzing about the recent Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, which featured both the office spaces of architect Stan Dixon and designer Suzanne Kasler. These are spaces that I have come to know well over the past six months as Stan is the architect who is designing my new house, and Suzanne is the designer who is creating the interiors of the home.

In the Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles article on Stan Dixon (which can be seen here), there is a small picture of a sketch that Stan had created for a project – and the project is my house! It is a sketch of the the outdoor room that we are planning. In Atlanta, outdoor rooms are quite popular as the weather is pleasant much of the year, and much of the fall and winter are mild enough to enjoy sitting outside when there is a fireplace. 
Photo credit: Erica George Dines, via Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles.

Here is the entire sketch of the space (sorry that it is not straight!). We considered various locations for the this space, and different size rooms. When Stan came up with this sketch, it was exactly what I had in mind (Stan knows that I need to see something before understanding it, so he kindly created this sketch for me while on an airplane flying to a client site). Although the details of the space will be fleshed out by Suzanne, Stan’s initial feel is that the room will have a very simple fireplace, with a limestone bolection mould on the painted brick. Stan likes the idea of a mirror over the fireplace to reflect the pool and the outdoors, and the casual elegance of canvas curtains to frame the opening. He also envisions some sort of green vine on the opening to soften the look.

The outdoor room is going to be aligned with the pool, and was designed to be just large enough for a seating arrangement. We made the decision to make the outdoor room a space for sitting and visiting rather than dining; this allowed us to make the space smaller and more intimate. We can easily set up an outdoor table elsewhere if we want to eat outside.
This is one of the features of the new house that I am most looking forward to, and I particularly like the idea of having a covered space where I can sit by the pool and not worry about getting too much sun!

QD collage
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